Friday, January 13, 2023
Eritrea Travel Guide - Travel S Helper

Eritrea

travel guide

Eritrea is a nation in the Horn of Africa. Its official name is the State of Eritrea. It is bounded on the west by Sudan, on the south by Ethiopia, and on the southeast by Djibouti. Eritrea’s coastline along the Red Sea is vast in the northeast and east. The country has an area of around 117,600 km2 (45,406 sq mi) and includes the Dahlak Archipelago and many Hanish Islands. The term Eritrea is derived from the Greek word for the Red Sea (Erythra Thalassa), which was first used for Italian Eritrea in 1890.

Eritrea is a multi-ethnic country with nine recognized ethnic groups among its six million people. The majority of people speak Afroasiatic languages, either Ethiopian Semitic or Cushitic branches. The Tigrinya make up around 55 percent of the population in these areas, with the Tigre representing approximately 30 percent of the population. There are also a handful of Nilotic ethnic minority who speak Nilo-Saharan. The majority of the inhabitants in the territory are Christians or Muslims.

The Kingdom of Aksum, which encompassed much of modern-day Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, arose in the first or second century and converted to Christianity about the time Islam expanded over Egypt and the Levant. Much of Eritrea was ruled by the Medri Bahri kingdom in medieval times, with a minor area ruled by Hamasien.

The merger of separate, different kingdoms and sultanates (for example, Medri Bahri and the Sultanate of Aussa) finally resulted in the foundation of Italian Eritrea. Eritrea joined a federation with Ethiopia, the Federation of Ethiopia and Eritrea, in 1947. Following annexation by Ethiopia, the Eritrean War of Independence erupted, culminating in Eritrean independence following a referendum in April 1993. Hostilities between Eritrea and Ethiopia persisted, resulting in the 1998–2000 Eritrean–Ethiopian War and subsequent conflicts with both Djibouti and Ethiopia.

Eritrea is a one-party state with frequently postponed national parliamentary elections. According to Human Rights Watch, the Eritrean government’s record on human rights is among the worst in the world. These claims have been rejected by the Eritrean administration as politically motivated. Compulsory military duty necessitates lengthy, indefinite conscription periods, which some Eritreans seek to escape by leaving the country. Eritrea was likewise classified as having the least journalistic freedom in the worldwide Press Freedom Index, owing to the fact that all local media is state-owned.

Eritrea is a member of the African Union, the United Nations, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, as well as an observer in the Arab League alongside Brazil, Venezuela, India, and Turkey.

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Eritrea - Info Card

Population

/

Currency

Nakfa (ERN)

Time zone

UTC+3 (EAT)

Area

117,600 km2 (45,400 sq mi)

Calling code

+291

Official language

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Eritrea - Introduction

Landscape

Bordering Ethiopia are north-south trending highlands that drop to a coastal desert plain on the east, mountainous terrain on the northwest, and rolling plains on the southwest. When Eritrea declared independence in 1993, it kept the whole Ethiopian coastline along the Red Sea.

Eritrea is a tiny nation (by African standards), approximately the size of Pennsylvania or England, but the unique terrain of the Great Rift Valley, which runs across East Africa, the Red Sea, and the Middle East, has resulted in a varied and contrasted environment.

Natural attractions are the most fascinating places to visit in the country. In the nation, there are six major topographical characteristics. The central and southern highlands, the western lowlands, the Sahel in the north, the subtropical eastern escarpments, the northern coast and archipelago, and the southern coast are all part of Eritrea.

The capital, Asmara, is located in the highlands, which are between 1500 and 3500 meters above sea level and have a moderate, Mediterranean, and dry climate with minimal seasonal fluctuation. The wet season lasts from May to September, whereas the dry season lasts from December to April. The temperature in the highlands, however, varies significantly depending on height. Valleys, hills, and huge stretches of plateaus are interspersed by spectacular chasms and gorges throughout the terrain. The scenery, which resembles pictures from Mars, is red-brown, rusty, beige, or black (stone and rubble-colored) during the dry season, which lasts from December to April. In the villages and towns, the vegetation consists mostly of shrubs, eucalyptus, aloes, cactus, and the occasional explosively colored specks of bougainvillea, jacaranda, or other decorative plants. The rainy season provides torrents of rain and nutrition to the soil, which in the post-rain months of August through October turns into a lush, emerald, and grassy landscape.

Rural highlanders live in communities with stone homes, tiny plots of land, old Christian and Muslim temples, people farming and herding with traditional methods and minimal technology, and carrying their products (as well as themselves) with mules and camels. The suburbs of Asmara, the capital, are a wonderful location to explore the highland scenery. The Martyrs National Park was established in 2000 near the hamlet of Tselot. At the crest of the highland plateau, where the capital was constructed, there is a hilly forest and wildlife preserve.

The western lowlands are located between 1500 and 100 meters above sea level and have a tropical climate with high humidity and heat during the day during the rainy season (which runs from May to September, as does the Highlands) and dry hot days with chilly nights during the dry season. During the wet season, the plains are grassy, muddy, and green, whereas during the dry season, they are dry, dusty, and sparsely covered with vegetation.

The plains are broken up by odd hills and mountains, as well as three seasonal rivers that begin in the Eritrean highlands and one permanent river that originates in the Ethiopian highlands and forms part of the Ethiopian border (the Setit, also known as Tekeze in Ethiopia and Atbara in Sudan). These rivers run through the lowlands, and all of the main towns are located on or near them. The southern part of the lowlands is covered with classic African Savannah, with occasional herds of wild African elephants and other Savannah-type vegetation and wildlife. The Sahara desert encompasses the northern half of the lowlands, which consists of large swaths of sand dunes and rocks punctuated by a few poorly inhabited oasis. Because it sits exactly between the dry and green sections of the lowlands, the market town of Tessenei near the Sudanese border and its environs is the ideal location to experience both sides of the lowlands. Tessenei serves as a crossroads for both nomadic desert peoples and sedentary agricultural populations in the Savannah. Tessenei provides tourists with some of the most basic facilities, such as hotels with showers and flush toilets, stores (including photo shops where visitors may purchase film and bottled beverages), and restaurants offering well-prepared meals. It takes approximately 10 hours to get there via asphalt road from Asmara’s capital, passing through Keren and the cities of Agordat and Barentu. Buses leave Asmara every day. It is also accessible by dirt road from the Sudanese city of Kassala, which is just 40 kilometers (25 miles) away. However, given the border bureaucracy, even small trip might take a whole day to complete.

The Sahel in northern Eritrea is located on the eastern outskirts of the vast Sahara desert, and it stands in stark contrast to the sandy deserts of the western lowlands and the eastern coast. The Sahel is a tall narrow range of mountains that stretches all the way north to Sudan and Egypt, varying in height from 1000 to 2500 meters (3280-8200 feet) (a feature of the Great Rift Valley). Herding nomads are sparsely inhabited on the east and west slopes. The rainy season on the western slopes coincides with that in the Highlands and western lowlands, while the eastern slopes have a climate similar to that of the Red Sea, with intermittent precipitation from December to March. This region receives much less rainfall than the majority of the country’s populated areas. The environment is desert-like, with minimal humidity, dry hot days and chilly nights, and little seasonal temperature change. Temperature differences do exist, though, between various elevations.

The advantages of the wet seasons have also been severely hampered by heavy erosion caused by conflict and prior overgrazing. As a result, the terrain is dry, suitable only for the most tenacious of nomadic herding tribes. Impenetrable and hair-raising mountain passes, gorges, and valleys make up the center and northern core. When Eritrean rebels (who now make up the country’s government) battled Ethiopia for Eritrea’s independence, this was their primary stronghold. Anseba, a seasonal river that originates in the highlands and bisects the mountain range before draining into a delta on Sudan’s Red Sea coast just north of the Eritrean border, bisects the mountain range and bisects the mountain range. The village of Nakfa, which was the primary base of the Eritrean resistance and gave the national currency its name, is the finest location to visit in the Sahel. A war museum honoring the independence fight is also located in Nakfa, as well as a pleasant but modest government-run hotel with a restaurant and satellite television.

It may be reached by road from Asmara through Keren and by dirt road from Keren via the town of Afabet. Because the route between Keren and Nakfa is bad, it takes 10 to 12 hours. Buses to Nakfa leave early in the morning from Keren, thus a journey from Asmara would need an overnight stay in Keren (which is served many times daily from Asmara). Afabet may also be reached by an asphalt route from Massawa’s harbor through She’eb. The drive from Massawa to Nakfa will still take approximately 10 hours since the inevitable Afabet-Nakfa section is the most difficult. Massawa to Nakfa buses operate once a week.

The eastern (seaward) slopes of the highland area make up the subtropical eastern escarpment. This sliver of land is unique in that it contains the country’s sole subtropical rainforest and one of the world’s biggest collections of seasonal (winter-migrant) and indigenous bird species (tropical). Because it is so hilly, it has never been extensively populated (fortunately), as farming is very difficult. Nonetheless, there are a few modest coffee and spice farms in the country’s central highlands, as well as tropical fruit plantations in the lower reaches. The Solomouna National Park, which is accessible by asphalt road from both the capital Asmara and the port of Massawa, is the finest location to visit in this region. The only method to go to the national park is to take a guided trip with one of Eritrea’s tour companies, all of which are based in Asmara. This area is also passed over while traveling from highland Asmara to seaside Massawa. The towns and villages between Nefasit (25 km from Asmara) and Dongollo Alto are representative of the region’s character (50 km from Asmara).

The northern shore and archipelago are mostly composed of a sandy red-brown and beige semi-desert, with occasional vegetation and volcanic basalt-rock near the mainland coast. The elevation ranges from 0 to 500 meters (1640 feet) above sea level, and the climate is always tropical and humid, with uncomfortable highs of 37 to 50 degrees Celsius (99-122 degrees Fahrenheit) from May to September, before cooling to breezy and warm “lows” of 25 to 35 degrees (77-95 degrees Fahrenheit) from October to March. On the coast, the rainy season is a meaningless notion since it seldom rains, except for the occasional year when a big storm hits. Although there may be some little precipitation and cloudiness from November to March, the coast is mostly reliant on runoff from the highlands and eastern escarpments for its water supply (from aquifers and table water). The hot springs resort, approximately 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Massawa’s port city, offers hot mineral water baths and the water is also bottled as one of the country’s most popular mineral water sources and brands (Dongollo, sold in brown glass bottles).

The coast and archipelago are home to some of the most pristine coral reefs in the Red Sea, teeming with marine life ranging from dugongs and manta rays to large schools of tigerfish, dolphins, and, of course, sharks. Eritrea’s coast has some of the finest diving in the world, but it also has some of the most restricted diving and tourism facilities in the world, all of which are located in Massawa and are very costly. Due to pollution, floods, and erosion from the adjacent hills, the beaches in and around the port city of Massawa, as well as to the north, are of moderate to bad condition. Large mangrove wetlands dot the northern shore, which are excellent for fishing and bird viewing but not for beach life.

The beaches on the Dahlak islands, on the other hand, are immaculately clean, white, and beautiful, with turquoise lagoons. The Dahlak islands may only be reached by chartering a boat from a permitted firm in Massawa. The largest island, Dahlak Kebir, is just 90 kilometers (56 miles) distant, as are several smaller deserted islands like Dissei, which may be visited for a reasonable day trip from Massawa. Beyond Dissei, the archipelago stretches considerably farther and has much more to offer. Because of Eritrea’s poor infrastructure, lengthier voyages and seeing more of the country’s attractions are prohibitively costly and only accessible via a few European-run firms headquartered in Massawa. It is difficult to cruise freely on one’s own boat or a hired boat in the nation due to the country’s increased security. The port city of Massawa is clearly the finest location to explore the northern coast and archipelago.

Because of its volcanoes, quicksand, boiling sulfuric mud pools, salt lakes, coastal cliffs, and interior depressions, Eritrea’s southern coast is arguably its most spectacular but unforgiving terrain. The height varies from nearly 2000 meters (6,560 feet) above sea level to more than 100 meters (330 feet) below sea level, with salt pans and oddly formed rocks, and temperatures that are among the hottest on the globe. Eritrea’s southern coast has the highest recorded temperatures, reaching 55°C on a regular basis (131 F). Humidity keeps temperatures high all day, and seasonal fluctuations are similar to those seen on the northern shore. The contrast between the background of the towering mountains of the highlands to the west and the wide stretches of coastal desert to the east creates a striking scene in the northern interior regions of the southern coast.

Because of the highland rainfall and runoff, it is the only place with significant vegetation in the whole region. Mountain goats and ostriches are among the fauna that may be seen in the region. The area is about 500 kilometers (310 miles) away between the port towns of Massawa and Assab. The area is best explored as part of a tour between the two towns, although excursions from Massawa and/or Assab may also be included, particularly for journeys focusing on interior scenery. Due to the severe temperature and political unrest near the Ethiopian border, any trip to this area without a guide is prohibited. The sole public transportation in the region is a few times weekly bus service between Massawa and Assab. Nasair from Asmara also visits Assab twice a week.

Geography

Eritrea is situated in East Africa’s Horn of Africa. It is bordered on the northeast and east by the Red Sea, on the west by Sudan, on the south by Ethiopia, and on the southeast by Djibouti. Eritrea is located between 12° and 18° north latitude and 36° and 44° east longitude.

A branch of the East African Rift cuts the nation almost in half. To the west, it contains rich fields, whereas to the east, it is desert. The fork in the rift is located in Eritrea, near the southern end of the Red Sea. Off the sandy and dry shore is the Dahlak Archipelago and its fishing grounds.

There are three ecoregions in Eritrea. The scorching, dry coastal lowlands extend down to the southeast of the nation to the east of the mountains. A distinct habitat may be found in the colder, more fertile highlands, which can reach elevations of 3000 meters. The sub-tropical rainforest near Filfil Solomona gives way to the southern highlands’ steep cliffs and gorges. The Afar Triangle, also known as the Danakil Depression in Eritrea, is thought to be the site of a triple junction, where three tectonic plates are pushing apart. Emba Soira, Eritrea’s highest peak, is situated in the country’s center, at 3,018 meters (9,902 feet) above sea level.

The capital city of Asmara and the port town of Asseb in the southeast, as well as the towns of Massawa in the east, Keren in the north, and Mendefera in the center, are the country’s major cities.

Eritrea is a member of the Global Environment Facility’s 14-nation constituency, which collaborates with international organizations, civil society groups, and the business sector to solve global environmental problems while supporting national sustainable development efforts. There is known to be local fluctuation in rainfall patterns and/or decreased precipitation, which may lead to soil erosion, floods, droughts, land degradation, and desertification. Eritrea also declared in 2006 that it will be the first nation in the world to create an ecologically protected zone along its whole coastline. The 1,347-kilometer (837-mile) coastline, as well as another 1,946-kilometer (1,209-mile) of shoreline around the country’s more than 350 islands, would be protected by the government.

Wildlife

Eritrea has a diverse mammalian population and a diverse avifauna with 560 bird species.

Eritrea is home to a diverse range of large game animals. Enforced restrictions have aided in their steady increase in numbers throughout Eritrea. The Abyssinian hare, African wild cat, Black-backed jackal, African golden wolf, Genet, Ground squirrel, pale fox, Soemmerring’s gazelle, and warthog are among the mammals frequently observed today. Dorcas gazelles may be found in abundance along the seashore and in Gash Barka.

The highlands of the Gash-Barka Region are believed to be home to lions. In certain areas of the nation, there is also a small population of African bush elephants. Dik-diks may also be found in a variety of locations. Denakalia Region is home to the endangered African wild ass. Bushbuck, duikers, greater kudu, Klipspringer, African leopards, oryx, and crocodiles are among the other native fauna. The spotted hyena is a very common and widespread species. There were no recorded sightings of elephant herds between 1955 and 2001, and they are believed to have perished as a result of the independence struggle. A herd of approximately 30 animals, including 10 youngsters, was seen near the Gash River in December 2001. Elephants and olive baboons seemed to have developed a symbiotic connection, with the baboons utilizing the elephants’ water holes and the elephants using the tree-top baboons as an early warning system.

Eritrea, the most northerly of East Africa’s elephants, is believed to have about 100 African wild elephants remaining. The rare African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) was formerly present in Eritrea, but it is now thought to be extinct across the nation. Snakes like the saw-scaled viper are abundant in Gash Barka. The puff adder and red spitting cobra are also common, especially in the highlands. Dolphins, dugongs, whale sharks, turtles, marlin, swordfish, and manta rays are all frequent marine animals in coastal regions.

Climate

Eritrea’s climate is influenced by its varied geographical characteristics and tropical position. Eritrea’s highlands and lowlands have different landscapes and terrain, resulting in different climates throughout the nation. The climate in the highlands is mild throughout the year. Most lowland zones have arid or semiarid climates. Rainfall and vegetation types are distributed differently throughout the nation. Eritrea’s climate is affected by seasonal and altitudinal variations.

Eritrea may be classified into three main climatic zones based on temperature variations: temperate zone, subtropical climate zone, and tropical climate zone.

Demographics

Between 1990 and 2014, Eritrea’s population grew from 3.2 million to 6.4 million. Eritrean women have an average of 4.7 children each year.

According to Eritrea’s government, there are nine recognized ethnic groups. Eritrea’s population is ethnically diverse. Although an impartial census has yet to be performed, the Tigrinya make up approximately 55 percent of the population, while the Tigre make up about 30 percent. Afroasiatic-speaking populations of the Cushitic branch, such as the Saho, Hedareb, Afar, and Bilen, account for the bulk of these ethnic groupings. There are also many Niloticethnic minorities in Eritrea, which are represented by the Kunama and Nara. Each ethnic group has its own native language, although many minority speak more than one. The Rashaida ethnic group makes up approximately 2% of Eritrea’s population. They live in Eritrea’s northern coastal lowlands as well as Sudan’s eastern coastlines. In the 19th century, the Rashaida arrived in Eritrea from the Hejaz area.

There are also populations of Italian Eritreans (concentrated in Asmara) and Ethiopian Tigrayans. Neither is usually granted citizenship until they marry or, in the rarest of cases, the state bestows it on them. In 1941, Eritrea had a population of approximately 760,000 people, including 70,000 Italians. After Eritrea gained independence from Italy, the majority of Italians fled.

Religion

According to current estimates, 50 percent of the population follows Christianity, 48 percent follows Islam, and 2% follow other religions like as traditional beliefs and animism. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 63 percent of people believe in Christianity and 36 percent believe in Islam. The Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church (Oriental Orthodox), Sunni Islam, the Eritrean Catholic Church (a Metropolitanate sui juris), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church have all been formally recognized by the Eritrean government since May 2002. A registration procedure is needed for all other religions and denominations. The government’s registration system, for example, compels religious organizations to provide personal information about their members in order to worship.

The Eritrean government opposes reformation or radicalization of the country’s recognized faiths. As a result, extreme versions of Islam and Christianity, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Bahá’ Faith (albeit the Bahá’ Faith is neither Islamic nor Christian), the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and a slew of other non-Protestant Evangelical groups are not allowed to worship freely. Since 1994, three identified Jehovah’s Witnesses have been imprisoned, along with 51 others.

Only one native follower of Judaism, Sami Cohen, remained in Eritrea as of 2006.

For the third year in a row, the US State Department designated Eritrea as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) in its religious freedom report.

Language

Eritrea is a nation that speaks a variety of languages. The Constitution guarantees “equality of all Eritrean languages,” thus the country has no official language. Tigrinya has taken on the role of de facto national language. It is the most commonly spoken language in Eritrea, with 2,540,000 total speakers out of a population of 5,254,000 in 2006. It is especially prevalent in the southern and central regions of the country. Afar, Arabic, Beja, Bilen, Kunama, Nara, Saho, and Tigre are some of the other main national languages. Tigrinya is utilized as a de facto working language alongside Modern Standard Arabic and English, with the latter being used in university education and many technical areas. Italian, the old colonial language, is still taught in elementary and secondary schools and is spoken by a few monolinguals.

The majority of Eritrea’s languages are members of the Ethiopian Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic family. Cushitic languages and other Afroasiatic languages are also extensively spoken in the nation. Afar, Beja, Blin, and Saho are among the latter. Other Afroasiatic languages, such as the recently recognized Dahlik and Arabic, are spoken by smaller populations (the Hejazi and Hadhrami dialects spoken by the Rashaida and Hadhrami, respectively).

Furthermore, the Nilotic Kunama and Nara ethnic minority groups that reside in the northern and northwestern parts of the nation speak Nilo-Saharan languages (Kunama and Nara) as their native languages.

Economy

Eritrea’s economy has grown significantly in recent years, as shown by a 7.5 percent increase in gross domestic product (GDP) in October 2012 over 2011. The start of full operations at the gold and silver Bisha mine, as well as the manufacture of cement from the Massawa cement plant, is a major element in Eritrea’s recent economic development.

The real GDP (estimated for 2009) is $4.4 billion, with an annual growth rate of 14% (estimated for 2011).

Remittances from overseas workers are projected to contribute for 32 percent of the country’s GDP. Copper, gold, granite, marble, and potash are among Eritrea’s abundant natural resources. The Eritrean economy has changed dramatically as a result of the War of Independence. Eritrea’s GDP increased by 8.7% in 2011, making it one of the world’s fastest growing economies.

Agriculture employs more than 80% of Eritrea’s workers. Sorghum, millet, barley, wheat, legumes, vegetables, fruits, sesame, linseed, cattle, sheep, goats, and camels are among Eritrea’s major agricultural products. [104]

Eritrea’s economy was badly harmed by the Eritrean–Ethiopian War. In 1999, GDP growth was less than 1%, while in 2000, GDP dropped by 8.2 percent. The conflict caused $600 million in property damage and loss in May 2000, including $225 million in cattle and 55,000 houses.

As part of the Warsay Yika’alo Program, Eritrea improved its transportation infrastructure by paving new roads, upgrading ports, and restoring war-damaged roads and bridges. The building of a coastal highway linking Massawa and Asseb, as well as the restoration of the Eritrean Railway, were the most important of these projects. Although services remain intermittent, the train connection between the port of Massawa and the capital Asmara has been restored. For gatherings of enthusiasts, steam locomotives are sometimes utilized.

Eritrea has a national airline, Eritrean Airlines, in principle, although services are patchy.

How To Travel To Eritrea

By plane

Eritrea is served by two international airports: Asmara International Airport in Asmara, and Massawa International Airport in Massawa, on the coast. There is a US$20/€15 airport charge that must be paid at the time of departure.

  • Egyptair flies two to three times a week from Cairo to Asmara.
  • Yemenia Air flies from Sanaa twice a week.
  • Eritrean Airlines flies from Cairo, Dubai, Khartoum, and Lahore three times a week, whereas Qatar flies three times a week from Doha.
  • Nasair flies to Nairobi, Bamako, Khartoum, Juba, Entebbe, and Ndjamena from Cairo, Dubai, Jeddah, Nairobi, Bamako, Khartoum, Juba, Entebbe, and Ndjamena.

By train

There is a Vintage Tourist line that connects Asmara and Massawa, but there is no international railway link to Eritrea at this time.

By car

You may drive into Eritrea from Sudan (Kassala border crossing) if you have a valid certificate of ownership for the car you’re driving (no rentals), all of your passports and visas (including your passengers’), and a customs declaration (if necessary). Visas should be obtained in your home country before traveling to Sudan (unless you are a Sudanese national). The roads on the border are in bad shape, so you’ll need a 4WD. The first gas station in Eritrea is at Tessenei, roughly 40 kilometers from the Sudanese border. Diesel is easier to get by than gasoline.

By bus

Sudanese pickup cabs travel daily from Kassala in Sudan to the Eritrean border (approximately a half-hour drive), while Eritrean taxis run about an hour from the Eritrean border to Tessenei (about 45 kilometers from the Sudanese border).

Border crossings may take hours due to bureaucracy, so leave early in the morning or early afternoon from Kassala in Sudan, since it is not allowed to enter Eritrea after dark (border posts are closed).

By boat

Assab (Aseb), Massawa (Mits’iwa), Assab (Aseb), Assab (Aseb), Assab (Aseb), Assab (Aseb The routes Massawa – Jeddah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are served by Sadaka Shipping Lines and Eritrean Shipping Lines. They primarily serve Muslim pilgrims, since it is very difficult for non-pilgrims to enter or traverse Saudi Arabia. If you’re sailing or cruising in aboard a private boat, you may apply for a special permission to refuel, purchase supplies, and make repairs when you arrive at the ports of Massawa and Assab. For further information, contact your nation’s foreign ministry and the Eritrean mission in/accredited to your place of origin.

How To Travel Around Eritrea

If you are flying into Asmara, you must get a permission from the Tourist Bureau on Liberation Avenue if you want to go beyond the city boundaries. This permission must be requested for at least 10 days before to departure. As of January 2010, foreigners may only go to Asmara, Keren, and the Massawa/Dahlak Islands (other than those on a designated mission working with the Eritrean government). If you arrive by land (or by ferry/private boat to Massawa), you may get a travel permit to transit Eritrea at the point of arrival, provided you have a valid Eritrean entrance visa. Obtaining a travel permit is simple as long as you inform and discuss with the Eritrean mission granting your entrance visa about your place of entry and travel plans well in advance.

The bus and/or minibus are the most popular modes of intercity transportation in Eritrea. The most frequent services, consisting of multiple buses/minibuses each day, run between Asmara and Keren, Asmara and Massawa, and Asmara and the southern highlands communities of Debarwa, Mendefera, Adi Quala, and Dekemhare, Segeneiti, Adi Caieh, and Senafe, all of which are close to the Ethiopian border. Because it is a highly fortified conflict zone, foreign people are unable to approach the Ethiopian border and go beyond the settlements of Senafe and Adi Quala. Daily bus services run between Teseney (near Kassala on the Sudanese border) and Asmara, passing via Barentu, Agordat, and Keren, as well as an alternate route passing through Barentu and Mendefera.

Buses/minibuses operate once a day between Asmara and several of the communities in the southern highlands. Buses to the north of the nation (Nakfa) are less regular, running once or twice weekly between Asmara and Nakfa, passing via Keren and Afabet. Buses from Asmara to the southern shore (Assab) are as rare, only running once a week and passing via Massawa. On the bus, tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets for certain state-run bus lines that go to distant border regions may be purchased in advance at the Asmara bus terminal, where you can also ask about the bus timetable. There will always be individuals who speak English and are ready to assist with translation.

Nasair flies twice weekly between Asmara and distant Assab, and once weekly between Asmara and Massawa. The latter flying path, however, may not be required since the distance between the two cities is just 120 kilometers (75 miles), and it runs along one of Eritrea’s finest and most beautiful highways. There are also buses that operate several times a day between the two cities, which cost a fraction of the price of a trip and take little over two hours, including pauses in the highlands.

Eritrea’s sole rail line connects Asmara and Massawa, and it’s only serviced by a museum railway (complete with steam engine) with no regular operation other than freight. It exclusively accepts chartered tour groups and takes a long 5 hours to accomplish the one-way trip.

Entry Requirements For Eritrea

Kenyans and Ugandans do not need visas, whereas Sudanese nationals may get a visa on arrival. Before entering the nation, everyone else must apply for a visa in advance.

Some Eritrean embassies offer websites where you may download and print a visa application, saving you time. You must apply for a visa to Eritrea only at an Eritrean Embassy located in – or accredited to – the nation where you are a citizen. If your nation does not have an Eritrean embassy or mission, contact your foreign office or ministry to find out where the closest authorized Eritrean mission is located. The following is a list of Eritrean embassies worldwide.

The below are the Eritrean embassies or consulates:

  • Europe: London, Paris, Brussels, The Hague, Berlin, Rome, Stockholm, Moscow, Athens, Milan, Frankfurt and Geneva. (If you come from a European (EU or EES) country without an Eritrean mission, you contact the Eritrean Embassy in Brussels by default)
  • Americas:Washington D.C., Ottawa, permanent mission to the U.N. in New York.
  • Africa: Pretoria, Abuja Nairobi, Kampala, Djibouti, Khartoum, Kassala, Cairo, Tripoli
  • Middle East: Riyadh, Jeddah, Sanaa, Abu Dhabi, Dubai,Doha, Kuwait, Tel Aviv (Ramat Gan), Damascus
  • Asia and Oceania: Islamabad, New Delhi, Singapore, Tokyo, Beijing, Melbourne.

Obtaining visas in Sudan (neither in Khartoum nor Kassala) for overland travel was not feasible as of December 2008 unless you were a Sudanese citizen or a foreign resident. Since December 2008, the border with Djibouti has been closed permanently, while the border with Ethiopia has been closed since May 1998.

You must provide precise details about when and where you will arrive and leave for a tourist visa, so you should have made some arrangements ahead of time (such as buying a ticket).

Destinations in Eritrea

Cities in Eritrea

  • Asmara (Asmera) – the capital
  • Keren
  • Massawa (Batsi or Mitsiwa)
  • Teseney
  • Assab (Aseb)
  • Nakfa

Other destinations in Eritrea

  • The Dahlak Archipelago is the Red Sea’s largest archipelago, with only four inhabited islands. Ruins from early Arabic/Islamic settlers dating from the 8th century have been discovered, and Ethiopian weapons and vehicles dumped into the sea during the war have created large artificial reefs that are great for diving.
  • Debre Bizen is a hilltop Orthodox monastery established in 1361; women are not permitted to enter, but males are welcome to climb to the top and view the monastery’s centuries-old library.
  • Debre Sina is a mountain Orthodox monastery that attracts thousands of pilgrims each year.
  • Matara is a collection of ruins from the Aksumite Empire that have been partly destroyed in subsequent wars.
  • Nakfa; surrounded by trenches and battle remains, it was home to the Ethiopian resistance organization for 30 years and is the name of the currency; it was destroyed in 1983 bombing attacks; there is a substantial population, although it is much less than pre-war.

Things To See in Eritrea

In terms of cleanliness, serenity, and architectural style, Asmara is now at the top of the globe. Art Deco public buildings, villas, and mansions are what distinguish it and make it so beautiful (or Decorative Art). They were constructed in a variety of architectural styles, including Art Deco, Futuristic, and Rationalist. The buildings’ architectural designs are extremely distinctive, and the facades, in particular, are eye-catching. They are magnificent, and some of them resemble sailing ships and historical buildings.

Others seem to be unusual falls from other planets (or supernatural things), while others appear to be magnificent paintings by a genius artist. Anyone may appreciate the beauty of the city’s architecture by walking to the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Cathedral, the Mosque, the theaters, and other places in the center of the city. The magnificent landscape of Asmara’s structures, accentuated by umbrella-like palm palms, invites appreciation and provides joy to view and admire.

Asmara is a great location to admire and satisfy your yearning for Art Deco from the early twentieth century. As a result, international tourists have been known to remark that Asmara residents live in a museum. Asmara is therefore a museum in the open air. Asmara and its Art Deco were constructed in the first four decades of the twentieth century with the help of a large indigenous labor force and a few Italian builders and engineers. The majority of Art Deco structures are concentrated in a few locations across the globe. They remain complete, maintained, and ancient in Asmara (as the adage goes, ‘Old is Gold’), while they were destroyed in Europe and other locations either by the two Great Wars or by subsequent modernization waves, or both.

  • Asmara Cathedral. The Cathedral of Asmara is a fine example of Lombard-Romanesque architecture and a helpful bearing point for lost travelers, with a bell tower that rises far into the sky.
  • Enda Mariam Orthodox Cathedral. The historic church is situated in the city’s center and represents the four directions of the world (east, west, north, and south), with an equal number of worshippers going through each of the four gates each day. A tree known as “Berberestelim” may be seen in the church’s compound. Priests used to wash dead corpses in the past by putting these tree leaves in the water, and the body would remain like way for years.
  • Asmara Theatre and Opera House. The Asmara Opera House, built in 1920, is a stunning example of Italian architecture.
  • Al Khulafa Al Rashiudin Mosque. One of Africa’s most opulent mosques. The building is diverse, with influences from both Italian and indigenous Moorish traditions.
  • Fiat Tagliero. One of the world’s few futuristic architectural masterpieces. It’s an old gas station that’s been transformed into an aircraft. It features two 70-foot cantilevered wings that serve as side covers.

Food & Drinks in Eritrea

Food in Eritrea

In the highlands (near Asmara), Eritrean cuisine is dominated by spicy foods and is quite similar to Ethiopian cuisine. The mainstay is injera, a flat, spongy crepe or bread prepared from fermented grain batter. On top of that, spicy stews with meat and vegetables are served and eaten with the hands. This food may be found at a variety of places throughout the country.

Middle Eastern meals like shahan-ful (bean stew) served with pitas may be found almost everywhere, although they’re more frequently offered for breakfast or brunch in small places.

Lowland food is not widely accessible in restaurants, although there are a few basic eateries in Massawa’s old town (outermost island), close to the freeport area, that offer Red Sea cuisine such as grilled spicy fish and “khobzen” (pitas drenched in goats butter and honey).

Italian cuisine is plentiful, though not very diverse, across Eritrea as a result of its colonial past. You’ll always be able to locate a restaurant that offers excellent pasta, lasagna, steak, grilled fish, and other dishes.

There are also many Chinese restaurants in Asmara, as well as a Sudanese restaurant and an Indian restaurant (Rooftop).

Drinks in Eritrea

Beer is by far the most popular beverage in Eritrea. There is just one (state-owned) brand in the nation, so there isn’t a lot of variety, but it’s very excellent. Eritrea’s beer is served cold. Beer’s popularity is quickly followed by different soft drinks, with the most popular flavors being orange, lemon/lime, and cola, manufactured by one of the world’s most recognized companies. The same firm that controls the beer monopoly also controls the production of native Sambouca, known as “Araqi,” as well as Vermouth and other spirits. Most bars sell international brands of the same alcohol, as well as others, at a reasonable price. Outside of the Intercontinental Hotel, which costs a high price, sophisticated cocktails are not known in Eritrea (yet). There is an Irish pub at the hotel, as a side note.

Eritreans also drink a sweet honeywine known as “mies” and a local type of mead known as “suwa,” which is made from old bread fermented in water with honey.

Foreigners should not drink tap water. Eritrea has a lot of reasonably priced bottled mineral water, both carbonated and non-carbonated.

Fresh fruit juices are available in certain towns’ cafes. These should be avoided since they may cause foreigners to get ill from food poisoning. You may consume or squeeze fresh fruits that haven’t been skinned. Avoid juices that have been “ready-squeezed,” as well as ice cream and any kinds of salads. Drink only bottled water and eat only prepared meals.

Money & Shopping in Eritrea

The Eritrean nakfa is the country’s currency. It is linked to the United States dollar. The USD is worth 15 nakfas. Coins are issued in denominations of one cent, five cents, ten cents, twenty-five cents, fifty cents, one hundred cents, and one nakfa. Banknotes are issued in denominations of one, five, ten, twenty, fifty, and one hundred nakfas.

Traditional Eritrean handicrafts consisting of leather, olivewood, clay, and straw are the finest Eritrean souvenirs. These, along with typical home-spun cotton clothing, can be purchased in most souvenir stores in Asmara. Posters and postcards are also widely available at most press kiosks, including those at airports. Leopard and zebra skin, as well as ivory goods, are available at souvenir stores, but you will be prohibited from leaving Eritrea with them. Because international commerce in such items is prohibited, you will most likely be arrested and punished at your final destination.

Eritrea, on the other hand, offers a number of souvenirs made of goatskin. Asmara marketplaces also sell gold, pearl, and silver jewelry, as well as frankincense and myrrh. Be cautious when purchasing textiles such as home-spun cotton clothing, animal skins with fur, and carpets; they may contain parasites. Before going home, make certain that it has been cleaned, treated, and dried.

Prices in Eritrea

Eritrea is a relatively inexpensive location to buy, dine, travel, and spend time in general (Hotel prices, apart from the pricey 5-star Intercontinental in Asmara, are also very cheap). Imports (particularly gasoline), services that rely on imports (upscale restaurants, hotels, private transportation or flights), and different government fees are the only items that might be costly in the nation (visas, airport taxes, travel permits etc.). You may spend less than USD50 per day on food, housing, and transportation if you avoid imports (or carry toiletries and cosmetics), dine locally, stay in cheap hotels (particularly those run by the government), and use public transit.

Traditions & Customs in Eritrea

Eritreans are courteous, friendly, and soft-spoken people who may maintain their distance from outsiders owing to the language barrier. If you are contacted by an English speaker, try to keep the discussion light and utilize common sense. Avoid showing contempt, arrogance, or harsh criticism of the country’s culture, religion, or politics, but most people will be understanding of your “mistakes” since you are a passing stranger. Don’t forget that you’re in a police state!

Do not be fooled by those that promise you a better exchange rate or any other “shady economic bargain” in return for your hard cash. A) They may be undercover government agents, putting you in serious danger of being caught by the Eritrean judicial system’s zero-tolerance policy, or B) Even if they aren’t, you risk not obtaining a fair transaction or being caught by the law, something you must avoid at all costs in Eritrea.

Taking photographs of individuals or their property without their consent is impolite. When photographing public buildings, be wary of government structures, particularly police and military structures. Taking photographs of them isn’t necessarily against the law, but doing so without authorization or supervision may be seen as extremely suspicious, leading to an unpleasant detention and questioning. Request authorization from the nearest authority (receptionist or police).

Prostitution is allowed, but only in regulated businesses that are hidden from view (certain bars, nightclubs, hotels). Overt flirtation with an Eritrean is regarded by the broader population as similar to prostitution or solicitation of prostitution, and may be very insulting if the individual in question or their family is not engaged in such activity.

Use of the left hand to greet, dine, or give something to someone is frowned upon, as it is in many East African and Middle Eastern nations. Using both hands while giving something over is acceptable and even considered polite, but not the left hand alone.

Women are not obliged to “cover up” or wear veils, but men and women who expose too much cleavage or/and wear too short a skirt/pair of shorts will be regarded as prostitutes. For smoking, Eritrean or Eritrean-looking women will be regarded harshly. Do not, however, confuse a lack of rank or formal capability for women in Eritrea with a lack of feminine modesty. In Eritrea, women drive all vehicles, including military tanks, ships, and aircraft. They also command soldiers and serve in the army and administration in the same capacities as men in all ranks. It is a nation in the midst of a rapid (and often contradictory) post-liberation cultural development.

Culture Of Eritrea

The coffee ceremony is one of the most well-known aspects of Eritrean culture. When visiting friends, at celebrations, or as a daily need, coffee (Ge’ez bn) is served. There are several customs that are observed throughout the coffee ceremony. The coffee is served in three rounds: the first is known as awel (meaning “first”), the second is known as kalaay (meaning “second”), and the third is known as bereka (meaning “third”) (meaning “to be blessed”).

The ethnic groups of Eritrea wear a wide range of traditional Eritrean clothing. The majority of individuals in the bigger cities dress in Western casual clothing such as jeans and shirts. Suits are worn by both men and women in workplaces. For Christian Tigrinya-speaking highlanders, traditional attire includes brilliant white gowns called zurias for the ladies and white shirts with white trousers for the males. Women in Muslim communities in Eritrea’s lowlands typically wear vividly colored clothing. Aside from comparable culinary preferences, Eritreans like similar music and lyrics, jewelry and perfumes, and tapestries and textiles as do many other people in the Horn.

Cuisine

Injera is a classic Eritrean meal served with a spicy stew that usually contains beef, chicken, lamb, or fish. Overall, Eritrean cuisine is quite similar to Ethiopian cuisine; however, due to their coastal location, Eritrean cookery tends to include more seafood than Ethiopian cuisine. Eritrean cuisine is also “lighter” in texture than Ethiopian cuisine. As with the tsebhi dorho delicacy, they also use less seasoned butter and spices and more tomatoes.

Furthermore, due to its colonial history, Eritrean food has more Italian influences than Ethiopian cuisine, such as more pasta and a larger usage of curry powders and cumin.

When a significant number of Italians came to Eritrea during the Kingdom of Italy’s colonial period, the Italian Eritrean cuisine was born. They introduced “pasta” to Italian Eritrea, and it is now one of the most popular foods in Asmara. ‘Pasta al Sugo e Berbere,’ which translates to “Pasta with tomato sauce and berbere” (spice), is a popular meal, although there are many more, such as “lasagna” and “cotoletta alla milanese” (milano cutlet). People in Eritrea also consume coffee in addition to sowa. Mies, a honey-based alcoholic beverage, is another popular local beverage.

Music

Each ethnic group in Eritrea has its own distinct musical and dance traditions. The guaila is the most well-known Tigrinya traditional musical genre. The stringed krar, kebero, begena, masenqo, and wata (a distant/rudimental cousin of the violin) are among Eritrean folk music’s traditional instruments. Helen Meles, a Tigrinya singer known for her strong voice and broad range of vocal range, is a famous Eritrean musician. Dehab Faytinga, a Kunama singer, Ruth Abraha, Bereket Mengisteab, Yemane Baria, and Abraham Afewerki are among the other notable local artists.

Sport

In Eritrea, football and cycling are the most popular sports. Eritrean athletes have seen growing success on the world stage in recent years. Eritrean athlete Zersenay Tadese presently holds the world record in the half marathon race. Every year, the Tour of Eritrea, a multi-stage international cycling race, takes place throughout the country. Eritrea’s national cycling team has had a lot of success, winning the continental cycling championship several times. Six Eritrean cyclists, including Natnael Berhane and Daniel Teklehaimanot, have been recruited to international cycling teams.

In 2013, Berhane was awarded African Sportsman of the Year, while Teklehaimanot was the first Eritrean to compete in the Vuelta a Espana in 2012. Teklehaimanot won the Critérium du Dauphine’s King of the Mountains classification in 2015. When the MTN–Qhubeka team picked Teklehaimanot and teammate Eritrean Merhawi Kudus for the 2015 Tour de France, they became the first African riders to participate in the event. Teklehaimanot was also the first African rider to wear the polka dot jersey in the Tour de France in July of this year. Both the men’s and women’s Eritrean cycling national teams are rated #1 on the continent. For the first time in 2013, and for the second time in 2015, the women’s team won gold at the African Continental Cycling Championships.

History of Eritrea

Italy invaded Eritrea in 1890 and held it until World War II, when the British evicted the Italians. Ethiopia was given Eritrea as part of a federation in 1952. Ethiopian takeover of Eritrea as a province 10 years later triggered a 30-year independence war that concluded in 1991 with Eritrean rebels beating Ethiopian and Ethiopian-backed troops. A UN-run referendum in 1993 resulted in a resounding yes vote for independence.

When the new state was formed, hopes were high, but in 1998, a new border conflict with Ethiopia began, which was finally resolved under UN auspices in December 2000. Eritrea hosted a UN peacekeeping mission that supervised a 25-kilometer-wide Temporary Security Zone on the Ethiopian border for a short time. In 2002, the conclusions of an international panel established to settle the boundary issue were published. However, owing to Ethiopian concerns, definitive delineation is on hold, and the boundary remains contentious to this day. Eritrea has now dismissed the troops, citing a lack of UN assistance in enforcing the boundary decision.

Eritrea’s government has degenerated into one of the world’s most controlling governments, using the conflict as a justification. There have never been national elections, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice is the only political party permitted, dissidents are imprisoned, and the country ranks dead last in the Press Freedom Index. Men and women are now required to serve in the military for eight years, border guards shoot on sight at anyone attempting to flee, and Eritreans living outside the nation must pay fees to visit. The nation is impoverished, with half of the people living on less than $1 per day. The conflict and the cessation of commerce with Ethiopia slowed growth, but it has lately stabilized thanks to government collaborations with mining firms.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Eritrea

Stay Safe in Eritrea

Keep an eye out for bicyclists, motorists, and pedestrians. Bicycling accidents are frequent because people do not check while crossing roadways. However, Eritrea is generally secure, and you may wander about at night and anyplace in the cities without fear of being robbed. Children may beg violently at times, but if you are firm with them, they will generally leave you alone.

It is very hazardous to go near the borders of any nation bordering Eritrea, and it should be avoided. Due to the hazardous circumstances, the towns of Teseney, Barentu, and Assab should also be avoided. Tensions between neighboring nations remain high, and violence may erupt at any moment.

Stay Healthy in Eritrea

Drink only bottled water and make sure the lid is securely closed before drinking tap water. Take extreme caution when it comes to what you consume. Here, a lot of people become ill. Foreigners will be treated in a Jordanian UN hospital. Hospitals in the area are understaffed. If you come here, stay healthy. Uncooked foods and non-bottled beverages should be avoided.

Adults with HIV/AIDS account for more than 0.8 percent of the population.

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